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    Have you heard of Pinkster?

    By Nicole Fallert, USA TODAY,

    28 days ago

    What makes a holiday? Is it a historical moment? A group of people who gather to celebrate it? Government recognition?

    These questions have been at the forefront of legitimizing Black celebrations across the country — an effort that has existed for centuries. While the racial reckoning of recent years renewed attention to Black history, the long-term results of that time are still to be determined. One such recognition from recent years is the codification of Juneteenth as a federal holiday to commemorate the end of enslavement in the United States. It falls on Wednesday this week, and this year marks only the fourth anniversary the Juneteenth national holiday.

    But the celebration, like other Black holidays, has been observed by local communities for centuries. Juneteenth stands with other Black holidays in a timeline of moments that acknowledge the past and serve as reminders of the fight for equality in the present.

    👋 Nicole Fallert here and welcome to Your Week, our newsletter exclusively for USA TODAY subscribers (that's you!). Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! No matter how you spend the day, I hope you feel connection and love. Here at USA TODAY, we're celebrating all different kinds of fathers.

    Now, to this week's edition. We're talking with USA TODAY reporter Eduardo Cuevas about Juneteenth and the national effort to enshrine Black celebrations as official holidays .

    And, of course, check out these stories made possible by your USA TODAY subscription:

    Pinkster, Juneteenth and the legacy of Black celebration

    When a friend told Cuevas a museum near his New York home was involved in an event to honor "Pinkster" a few weeks ago, he was curious: What was this day?

    Pinkster is known as the "first" African American holiday. The celebration dates back to the 1700s, when enslaved people lived in the area now known as New York City. Unlike the South, these enslaved people were not housed in close quarters on plantations. They were largely isolated among homes, docks and businesses. So the opportunity every spring to come together for "the Pentecost" made Pinkster a special moment of connection and joy for this population. At the time, Pinkster was considered a new holiday − although it incorporated old traditions from enslaved people's cultures in West Africa.

    Today, New Yorkers still honor Pinkster by marching, rattling shell shakers, banging tambourines and drums, and strolling in groups along city sidewalks. The sound and emotion of the day echo the respite from bondage the holiday provided hundreds of years ago.

    "It adds more history to the Black experience," Cuevas said. "As a non-Black person, it seems so much of Black history is so limited in our understanding, so we tend to look at singular days when there's such a rich history."

    While Juneteenth marks the moment in Galveston, Texas, when slaves learned they were emancipated, Pinkster marks another moment in New York, when enslaved people came together annually for a moment of joy and family. Both of these days have been involved in a wider push among advocates to codify Black celebrations as official holidays or commemorations . A New York lawmaker has a measure pending at the state Capitol – built atop a historic Pinkster gathering space – to enshrine Pinkster in state law alongside Juneteenth and Holocaust Remembrance Day.

    Importantly, the history of Pinkster demonstrates that Juneteenth isn't the only Black holiday in U.S. history, a common misconception: "It predated Juneteenth as a way of resistance to maintain culture and community at a time when all of that was stripped away."
    To celebrate Pinkster, a small crowd gathered at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum in New York City on Saturday, May 25, 2024. About a dozen people trekked 7 miles in Manhattan to honor enslaved and free African people who celebrated the holiday in colonial New York. Eduardo Cuevas

    Adding this kind of nuance to Black history is vital, Cuevas said. This Juneteenth, he suggests thinking about how this day resembles movements of resistance across the country. These are a legacy much more complex and powerful than a single day of the year, he said. By raising awareness of local Black celebrations, people today can ensure history and dignity is practiced and preserved.

    Have the day off? Here's how to spend Juneteenth: Cuevas recommends you stay curious about what's scheduled in your community. Just as he found out about Pinkster celebrations at his local museum, keep an eye on cultural sites near your home to discover how Black history shows up in the spaces you use every day.

    For example, Cuevas frequently jogs past an enslaved African burial ground near his home. Now, a school parking lot and mechanic shop sit atop of it. He is taking the opportunity to think about the site and what the land represents.

    "How do we engage with this?" he said. "The legacy of people resisting conditions of slavery and maintaining their humanity is everywhere around us."

    Thank you

    As we honor Black history on Juneteenth this week, I'll keep Cuevas' words in mind. Thank you for supporting our journalism with your subscription. Our work wouldn't be possible without you.

    Best wishes,

    Nicole Fallert

    This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Have you heard of Pinkster?

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